- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, April 27, 2014

Demonstrate ‘culture of life’ with immigrant prenatal care

State conservatives are caught between two divisive issues, but seem to be making a humane choice that can help some of the most vulnerable in our state.

Of course, money seems to be the driving factor.

On one side is illegal immigration and immigration reform. Clearly, South Dakotans have spoken: They do not want anyone living illegally in this country. There is a path to citizenship, and all people who want to live here must follow that path.

Otherwise, they are a drain on the system and taking good jobs away from the Americans who need them.

On the other side is prenatal child care, and providing help and resources for women who are living in the U.S. illegally, but whose children will become citizens when they are born.

How can a true conservative, who believes that every life is valuable, turn away even those who should not be here?

The reality is they can’t. No matter the reform, there will be people living within our borders who should not be here. They will have children who did not ask to be born under these circumstances, but whose quality of life will be measurably lessened if their mothers don’t have the basic care afforded most in our society.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard backs prenatal care from a pragmatic standpoint. Babies born in South Dakota without proper prenatal care come with a large cost for our health care providers.

Supporters in the state Legislature will again bring prenatal care to the floor in 2015, according to the Associated Press, after previous bills have failed.

The bill, sponsored last year by Rep. Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon, would expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the low-income net for children who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Daugaard’s staff said that, in the past fiscal year, 195 immigrant women gave birth in the state, according to the AP. Eleven babies needed $160,000 in neo-natal care.

South Dakota picked up the bill.

One way or another, the state pays for those children born here, whether the parents are citizens or not.

The decent thing is to create a valve for those just-in-case moments.

Our state has argued for a “culture of life,” but how can that be when these innocent children are turned away?

We do believe that everyone should take the necessary steps to become citizens under the law. We also think that laws we have should be enforced when some take advantage of our system.

But those children of immigrants deserve a chance to live a life free of unnecessary, preventable health problems. An inclusive prenatal care program would give them that chance.


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, April 26, 2014

Scrap the state activities association

It is time to make radical changes to the organization that manages high school sports and student activities in South Dakota.

The current South Dakota High School Activities Association, guided by a largely ineffective, often self-serving board of directors, just does not work.

We prefer the South Dakota Legislature - not a civil court judge - take the lead in this effort. But however it unfolds, change is overdue.

Much attention has been given to the SDHSAA’s recent discussions on maintaining a seven-class football playoff structure and on limiting the number of Sioux Falls students who can play in state tournaments. As outlandish as those efforts are, there is a more serious problem here.

The SDHSAA governing board is structured in a way that defies fairness. In effect, the students who attend school in Sioux Falls - estimated to be about 20 percent of the state’s public school enrollment - have had no voice on the board since 2000. The structure and constitutional requirements to change that are ineffective, in large part because they allow the smaller schools to control the outcome of any proposed change.

That’s why lawmakers must step in and force changes for the good of all the state’s high school students.

The SDHSAA derives its power from the state Legislature, which instituted it years ago. Lawmakers clearly are unhappy with the organization. This past winter, a legislative move to demand greater transparency from the SDHSAA board of directors - requiring that it meet the standards of the state’s open meetings statutes - passed overwhelmingly.

It’s important to note that the SDHSAA vigorously opposed greater openness. That probably tells you much about the leadership of this organization, which was formed, in theory, to promote and regulate student activities and to provide the best possible experience for student athletes, actors, musicians and others.

Too often the governing body of the SDHSAA has acted more to attempt to boost the economies of midsized South Dakota cities than to achieve a better competitive experience for the state’s young people.

Since various attempts to make representation on the board fairer have failed, the courtroom is the most likely next field of debate. And that’s not a good route for anyone.

It’s time for a change. The Legislature should abolish the current structure, organization and duties of the SDHSAA. In its place, a task force of educators, legislators and parents should recommend a route to a truly representative, forward-thinking organization, tasked with keeping the best experiences of students at the forefront at all times.

In the end, the board might include some appointed members as is done in Minnesota and Iowa. And representation in proportion to population is important.

There are many possible scenarios to consider. Other states have managed to make it work, so blueprints are out there.

It’s unfortunate that in the arena of South Dakota high school activities, too much power has been concentrated for too long in too few hands.

A clean start is needed to end this embarrassment - and the sooner the better.


Daily Leader, Madison, April 24, 2014

Jobs are available with just a few characteristics

We’ll soon be attending high school graduations from area high schools, plus Dakota State University, and we’re confident we’ll hear graduation speakers talk about getting jobs.

It’s a pretty good time to look for post-graduation employment. South Dakota’s unemployment rate is at just 3.7 percent, and the classified pages of the Daily Leader have plenty of employment advertisements.

Even so, the U.S. Department of Labor recently said the unemployment rate for 2013 college graduates was about 11 percent. While jobs are available, recent graduates tend to be pickier, waiting for just the right job in their field of study or in a geography they prefer.

Many colleges and universities boast that a very high percentage of graduates find work in their field, which creates an unrealistic expectation among students: “Regardless of what I study, I’ll find work in that field.”

That’s not how the job market works. Job demand is determined by what companies, governments or institutions need, rather than by what’s available.

Even in a particular field, companies usually need people with more than just an education. They need people with experience, a strong work ethic and a good attitude.

And here’s one you may not have thought of: new employees often need to pass a drug test. We know of jobs in Madison that go unfilled because of a drug test requirement. Express Employment Services, one of the largest employment agencies in the country, says one out of four applicants can’t pass a drug test.

The good news is that most of these factors that employers want are available with just good decision-making. Having a good attitude, arriving on time, working hard and coming to work clean are within the capabilities of anyone. Add in the good education from local schools, and we’re optimistic about the job futures of local graduates.

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